For those of you that don’t know, I injured my right shoulder pretty badly a few months ago.
I was playing basketball and ran blindly into a screen at about 75% of my full speed.
I sustained a Grade 2 sprain of the AC joint and did not regain full mobility in my shoulder for almost 3 months.
While I still feel a little discomfort, I am back to training at 100% and feel great.
That brings me to the topic of this post.
Most people – especially men – have extremely poor shoulder mobility and health.
Years of poor training technique and prior injuries, combined with our modern 9 to 5 lifestyle, are to blame.
How do you know if you have healthy shoulders?
Stand in front of a mirror.
Firstly, if you cannot lift both arms over your head to at least even with your ears, without lifting your rib cage or straining your lower back, you do not have full range of motion in your shoulders.
Now, put your hands down at your sides.
Do your palms face in, towards your body, with your thumbs facing out in front of you?
Or do your palms rotate back slightly behind you, with your thumbs facing in towards your body?
If the latter is the answer, your shoulders are internally rotated.
If you do not have full range of motion and/or notice that your shoulders are internally rotated, and you are not experiencing discomfort or have not been injured yet, know that unless you follow the tips in this post immediately, it is only a matter of time until you do so.
If you are experiencing shoulder discomfort, or sustained an injury like me, the tips in this post will help to get your shoulder healthy again, and prevent any future injuries from occurring.
1. Eliminate Over Head Pressing From Your Workout Routine
Yea, I know.
“But if I don’t over head press, how will I build massive delts, bro?”
Chill out, homie.
First of all, if you sustain any kind of shoulder injury in the future, you’ll be missing a lot more than just one shoulder exercise.
Most experts agree: over head pressing is simply just not worth it.
Pressing any weight over head causes the humeral head to drive into the acromion and cause an impingement.
Bone ligaments then add to this compression, which puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the rotator cuff.
Anyone that has injured or torn their rotator cuff will tell you : the recovery process (including surgery) is a daunting process, and the shoulder is never the same afterwards.
“But, that still doesn’t answer my question brahhh!”
Yea, about the deltoids:
One can still train the sh-t out of these muscles without ever over head pressing.
The front, or anterior delts, are always hit whenever you press horizontally.
By using a variety of angles for pressing (flat, low inclined, and 45 degrees) and angling the dumbbells at 45 degrees, or keeping them in a “neutral” position, you will insure that the front delts get all of the stimulation they need.
The medial and posterior delts can be trained with a variety of lateral dumbbell raises and reverse flye variations for high reps and lots of volume.
2. Make Sure You Warm Up Properly Before Each Training Session
Spend 10-15 minutes before every session to activate your muscles and lubricate your joints.
First, make sure you roll your lats and your pecs for a good five minutes.
I personally like to use a foam roller for my lats and a small medicine ball for my pecs.
This helps to break up any scar tissue, and allows for better mobility from the shoulder girdle.
Secondly, perform a variety of dynamic stretches and shoulder mobility/activation drills for 10 minutes.
This includes but is not limited to:
Slow, full range of motion arm circles – both directions
Wall Stick Ups
T-Spine Rotation Variations
Prone Black Burns
Kettle Bell Halos
Y-T-W Isolation Holds
If you do not know what any of these exercises are, look them up on YouTube.
Let’s face it.
Most of us aren’t in high school and college any more.
If you fail to take the time to perform some of these exercises before every session, you will eventually get injured.
3. Pull At Least Twice As Much As You Push
And when I say pull, I mean horizontally.
Pulling vertically places the same type of stress on the shoulders as pressing does.
Most guys at the gym spend most of their time training the “mirror muscles.”
They train their chest and shoulders 2-3x per week while severely neglect their posterior chain.
This, combined with our modern lifestyle of texting, driving, and sitting in front of the computer all day, causes our pectoral muscles to get extremely tight and pull on our shoulders, causing them to rotate internally.
Aside from rolling the pecs out almost on a daily basis, one can alleviate this problem by including all kinds of rowing variations in their training program and making sure to at least double the volume performed on all pushing exercises.
4. Hit The Upper Back Hard
If you have never heard of Face Pulls or Band Pull Aparts, and you’ve been training consistently with heavy weights for years, you most likely have horrible posture and suffer from both problems mentioned above.
Perform these exercises and all their variations consistently and vigorously.
If you do nothing else mentioned in this post, make sure you do these.
Again, if you do not know what they are, please YouTube them.
I would aim for 100 band pull aparts daily, and make sure you are hitting a solid face pull variation at least 1-2x per week for 3 sets of 12-20 reps.
Add some farmer carries and shrug variations to your routine; this will round out your upper back training and help strengthen the traps.
While I didn’t let anyone know at the time, I was absolutely miserable the last few months.
Training has been a part of my life since I was 14 years old, and in that time, I don’t think I’ve gone more than 1 or 2 weeks without it.
Sitting back for 3 months while I recovered was tough, especially since I am in a gym for 8-12 hours each day.
My injury was just bad luck.
But poor shoulder health is extremely common nowadays.
Fortunately, though, it is also extremely easy to fix.
Like all things in life, it all depends on whether or not you are willing to work for it.
If you are as passionate about training as I am, or if it’s as important to your mental state and well being as it is for me, please follow the tips laid out in this post, so that you can continue to train hard for as long as you live!